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Global Pen Pals

Letter 6 in our series.

Dear Ellen,

At our age we have become more and more aware of the fact that the years and the seasons fly by, but since we started writing these letters it's the months that rush by! Concerning seasons: here autumn has started, it is raining – sometimes the sun comes out and then it can turn quite warm, but the summery easiness has vanished – quite depressing!!

I forgot two important things in my July letter: your birthday and the birthday of the USA. Please let me make this good by congratulating you in this letter. I wish you all the best and send you a big birthday hug. I find birthdays very important and we still celebrate my children's birthdays (Sibyl 42, Meret 41 and Ueli 39) with dinners at my home: sometimes on the exact date or – if they are out of town - somewhere near it. For my birthday I get invited to one of my children's home. – Switzerland, by the way, also had its birthday: on August 1 st. Because it was so dry, fireworks were forbidden in most of the cantons.

What a nice story about that encounter (wasn't "Brief Encounter" (1945!!) a wonderful film!) in the Museum of Natural History. You are so courageous about addressing people speaking Swiss German and asking them whether they know Mani and me – I hope you never fall on one of my political opponents!! - Mani would have had his 70 th birthday on August 4 th, and there were photos and articles in the papers and Swiss television again showed the film on Mani that was made in 2002 for the 30 th anniversary of Mani's death. – You will not be surprised to hear that one of Mani's Chansons ("hemmige" = inhibitions) was selected as one of the 15 most popular songs in Switzerland. For readers who are curious about who my husband was, click and you will get all kinds of interesting information, in German, but you can also hear him sing and see photos, and definitely look at "Matter Stadtplan" where you will see a map of the town of Berne (with the river Aare I told you about in my last letter) and stars, which you can click and which show you places of importance in Mani's (and my) life).

As you know, Mani not only wrote, composed and sang his successful Chansons, but beside his full time job as a lawyer and legal advisor of the City of Bernealso wrote philosophical and literary texts, some of which I published in 1974 and in 1976, as Mani and I had started sorting them out for publication in the early seventies. After his death the Swiss Federal Archives of Literature showed great interest in Mani's literary remains. But before taking this step I wanted to go through Mani's work myself and I have wanted to do this for about thirty years! With my three children, my work as a teacher and later as a member of the Cantonal Parliament and from 1989 - 1996 as a member of the City Council (= Government of the City of Berne) I just didn't have enough spare time. Last Christmas I decided that I would definitely do this job in 2006 and one night I had the glorious idea of asking a student I know to help me. She is very intelligent, reliable, comes up with ideas of her own. I knew this because she had helped me organizing conferences in 2004 and 2005 for the Gertrud Kurz Foundation. You can imagine how happy I was when she agreed. Now we work in a very disciplined way – two to three days a week except holidays and when Franz Hohler was here the other day he was very impressed with our work and said the Archives would lick their fingers (in German this means: be very impressed and happy) when they saw in what excellent order the Archive would be able to take over Mani's works coming September or October.

Unfortunately I have been quite sick with Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) for about two months. At first I thought it was toothache, but the dentist checked the teeth in my lower right jaw twice and finding nothing he mentioned TN – and that was the first time I ever heard of this illness. I then went to see a neurologist who confirmed the diagnosis. The terrible, sharp and almost unbearable pain shoots through your whole head like an electric shock, the attacks happening whenever you move your jaw, meaning that in the worst times I could hardly drink, eat, speak, wash my face, let alone brush my teeth! It was a terrible experience – each attack, which could last seconds or minutes, leaving me totally knocked out. In time the medication worked (anti-seizure pills containing carbamazepine, the drug that is given to epileptic patients) and now I still have an occasional spasm, but it is nothing compared to the former attacks, but I have very little energy, a side effect of these pills. TN reduced my holidays in France to a few days and I was glad that Ueli came to drive me home. Dear Ellen, don't worry – I am well looked after by my doctor and I can hope that TN will "leave" me one day and then I can gradually stop taking these pills. On Monday I will start working on Mani's papers again.

Much love to all of you,

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